Earlier this year I had the pleasure of being visited by the awesome Game Shelf duo Amy and Fiona. What was almost equally awesome is that they brought with them the game Calimala. I was largely unaware of the game, but was super glad to get to play it. Built around a clever action selection grid where most of the time you chose an action you are going to be triggering actions for other players too. There is a lot more going on than this but this core mechanic unpins the game. In his follow up, Ragusa, designer Fabio Lopiano doubles down on that idea whilst making the whole shebang a whole lot more accessible.
Coming from publishers Braincrack Games and Capstone Games, Ragusa fits neatly into the latter's 'simply complex' line of games. It is incredibly easy to pick up and play, yet not far under the surface is a game of intricate choice and depth. This all comes from the central action of placing a wooden building from your supply out onto the board. All the possible places you can place on will intersect with three hexes and you will be able to gain any resources take any actions on associated with these hexes.
Resources work a little differently in Ragusa to most games, rather than earning resource that you then spend, you are instead building up a supply chain. So, if you have placed it next to three wood, you have three wood for the rest of the game. The only slight exception to this is fish, which can be traded at anytime to increase your supply of another resource, because who doesn't like fish? Commodities however work more like they do in other games, you will earn them and spend them - generally for victory points in some form or another.
On your turn you will simply place out a building on one of the spots on the board. There are some rules about placing that you will need to adhere to, namely having access to the required amount of wood or stone to build in the rural or city areas respectively, but they soon become second nature. Once you have placed your building you will earn the resources or take the actions for each of the three adjacent hexes your building touches. Actions include turning your resources into those valuable commodities, building the wall or the city or adding towers to it, and gaining victory points or opportunities to gain them.
The trick is that most of the actions will then be taken by every building in the relevant hex, be there yours or any of the other players. This makes Ragusa a highly tactical game. You can have a plan going into the game, but you are quickly going to need to react and respond to the other players moves. If you let someone gain a foothold in an action hex then by the time you want to go there you will have to live with them benefiting multiple times from that action to.
As buildings are placed out each round the map builds up to look really quite special, even in this prototype stage. The tower pieces fit snugly over buildings and as the walls and buildings increase the board comes to glorious three dimensional life. The board is well illustrated already with subtle spots for buildings, yet even as I was playing the prototype Braincrack were making plans to increase the visual clarity of actions and hexes.
To round out the gameplay options are your various ways to score end game points. Buying ships, investing in the cathedral, commodities or challenge cards are all viable routes to victory. Normally a game of this depth would take a good 90 minutes to play, yet Ragusa regularly played in 30 minutes with three players. This is one of those Kickstarters that I have no hesitation in recommending, and one where I am putting my money where my mouth is as backer number six!